Minutes of the June 22, 2011 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Conference Room, 5th Floor, 79 Elm St., Hartford.

PRESENT: Barbara Wagner (Chair), Howard Beach, Liz Clark, Karyl Lee Hall, Richard Sherman, Norman VanCor, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).

Chair Wagner called the meeting to order at 9:08 AM, noting the presence of a quorum.

Chair Wagner asked if there were revisions to the minutes of the May 25, 2011 meeting. None was made. A motion to approve the minutes was made by VanCor which was seconded by Hall and approved unanimously.

Chair Wagner said there would be no chair’s report and asked Wagener to proceed with the executive director’s report.

Executive Director's Report

Wagener said that the Council was in the queue for the transition to the new state website format, and that he had been preparing content for the transition. The exact schedule would be up to the Department of Information Technology, which has a target date of July 1 for getting almost all agencies onto the new format. Wagener also reported on web traffic, including the number of visitors who view the home page, Environmental Monitor, agenda page and the annual report, which were the most popular pages. Chair Wagner noted that the annual report page on electricity and efficiency, which saw fewer visitors than most pages, is very rich with information and is an important aspect of reducing one’s environmental impact; future changes in placement and a new title for that section were discussed.

Wagener reviewed the budget and legislative summary that had been mailed prior to the meeting. VanCor requested the public act numbers of the bills as they are signed. There was considerable discussion of the bills affecting cell tower siting, brownfields, and land conveyances.

Wagener announced that the town of Farmington had voted to separate its Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency from the Planning and Zoning Commission, as the Council had recommended previously, effective January 2012.

Wagener said the Council had received a response to its comments of last month regarding a Siting Council application to convert an existing flush-antennae cell tower to a tower with an external array of antennae. The response came from the attorney for the applicant who maintained that rapid changes in cell phone technology and growth in demand are forcing extensions in height or modifications in design. The alternative is construction of more towers. A discussion followed on what this means in light of Bill #6250, which directs the Siting Council to give additional consideration to design options intended to minimize aesthetic and environmental impacts.

Wagener referred to the DEP’s announcement of a project to evaluate and transform its remediation programs, which is something long advocated by the Council. Members concurred that any correspondence to the governor or commissioner on the remediation issues, as discussed at the May meeting, should wait until the DEP’s effort moves along. Staff will attend the project’s first public session in late June.

Wagener reported that he had attended a meeting of DEP staff working on new metrics and indicators intended to measure the DEP’s performance, and shared information with the DEP staff.

Review of State Agency Actions

Siting Council consultations – Wagener said that the Council staff recommended no comments on the proposed cell tower in Willington.

University of Connecticut (UConn) Action for Additional Water Supply Sources – Wagener provided the Council with the background on UConn’s recently-published scoping notice for its search for additional water supply sources. Wagener asked Richard Miller, Director of Environmental Policy for the University, who was present in the audience, if he wished to elaborate. Mr. Miller identified the various sources that were being investigated and mentioned the construction of a tertiary sewage treatment plant that would make treated wastewater available for heating and cooling at the University; because that project was underway, it would not be a component of the forthcoming study.

Citizen Complaints

Wagener said he would update the members on several complaints, and that no action was required.

Kleen Energy – New complaints regarding noises and odors from the Kleen Energy plant in Middletown began coming in during the previous week. Staff has been in daily contact with the DEP staff, who suggest that the noises and odor appear to be coming from initial problems associated with getting the systems started and running properly.

Greenwich School Project – Wagener said he received a detailed letter regarding alleged violations of the inland wetlands laws, public tree-removal laws and other laws associated with a school expansion project in Greenwich. Wagener said that it appeared that all of the actions had been authorized by town permits, and that he did not see any apparent violations. Wagener said he wrote to the citizen to explain that no state agency has authority to override local permits, which would have had to be appealed to court to be overturned.

Ponde Place, Mansfield -- In follow-up to the discussion at the May meeting about the application for water supply wells by the developer of Ponde Place in Storrs, Wagener reported that the DPUC had not yet made a determination on the Phase 1A application for the wells.

Stamford groundwater pollution – Wagener said that the staff did some preliminary research in response to the concerns of the Stamford resident who lived in a neighborhood suffering from contaminated soils. The two city-owned facilities that were mentioned by the homeowner at the May meeting are in the evaluation and/or remediation process. The city has been ordered by the DEP to close the landfill, cap it and install monitoring on the periphery. The Bartlett Arboretum has completed a Phase I investigation of the property and is in the process of a Phase II study.

Underground storage tanks – In response to an inquiry about the extent of contamination from underground storage tanks (USTs), staff obtained from the DEP the statistics of known UST sites that require remediation. He said that the backlog of sites requiring remediation grows slightly each year. DEP staff reports that reducing the backlog is a priority. Members discussed the desirability of producing a short report on this problem in relation to other backlogs in remediation, and related issues.

Valley Railroad -- Wagener reminded the Council of last year’s discussion of herbicide spraying by the Valley Railroad; that discussion was prompted by several comments received at the April 2010 public forum in Haddam. He said the issue had come up again this week when the 2011 spraying occurred. He said complaints were received from landowners whose properties abutted the railroad. Among their concerns was lack of notice; the state and railroads are exempt from the laws that require notification of abutting landowners who request it. A representative of the DEP was present during the operation and took samples, and the Council will obtain copies of the results. He suggested that the question of adequate notice to property owners would be an appropriate item for a future agenda, as the Valley Railroad property, which is a state park, is unusual among railroads and notification might be appropriate and easily accomplished. Hall said that such evidence of care and concern by the spraying company and the railroad might be something their lawyers would encourage.

Indicator of the Month

Wagener referred to the memo distributed in advance of the meeting, and reviewed the history of the Compliance indicator. Members discussed the potential weaknesses of the inspection-based indicator, including the absence of contaminated properties that are not in compliance but are not inspected. Members agreed to maintain the indicator, probably with a different name, and to develop a separate indicator relating to the progress in remediation of contaminated properties, acknowledging the difficulties involved.

Members agreed to hold a public forum in Mansfield on July 27, subject to the availability of a quorum, which staff would verify.

There being no other business, the meeting was adjourned at 11:21 AM.